Red Sand, Black Flags and Moonilal Pt 1

Fmr EMBD line minister Dr Roodal Moonilal

What if I told you that at the root of the current #RedSandBlackFlag scandal stands Dr Roodal Moonilal.
On June 10th, 2015, the evening before the People’s Partnership government announced the date of the September 7th General Elections the EMBD under then line Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal purported to issue letters of awards to contractors to operate the red sand pits.

The Kamla Persad-Bissessar cabinet had been advised since January 2015 that there were serious issues surrounding the sandpits. These included:

  • Contractors operating without mining licenses.
  • Leases for the properties that were being mined not being in place.
  • No titles to the lands being mined.
  • Appropriate documentation to mine/quarry were not in place.

As recently as August 2017 Minister Clarence Rambharat revealed in a post-Cabinet press conference on the Red Sand issue that the EMBD was not aware of any documentation being found to establish a basis for the mining awards granted to these contractors to quarry red sand. 

Upon assuming office as Minister for Agriculture in September 2015 and discovering that there was illegal quarrying happening, moves were made to halt the activities and to rectify the corruption that was taking place.

Pundit Lutchmidath Maharaj – red sand quarrier.

Two of the contractors currently waiting on the government to rectify this quarrying issue are Jusamco and Pundit Lutchmidath Persad-Maharaj, a former PNM candidate in 2007, Maha Sabha pundit and the man who has laid claim to the flags that have been planted at the Ministry of Agriculture’s offices in St Clair and Chaguanas, and Balisier House in New Town, Port of Spain.

Minister of Agriculture, Clarence Rambharat, the new EMBD line minister.

In a phone interview with #NewSauce, Minister Rambharat said that the Ministry is willing to let both the pundit and Jusamco continue to quarry, but the proper processes, licenses and documents must be in place. Minister Rambharat also said that under future arrangements miners must pay based on what they remove and not just a flat fee. Minister Rambharat said that currently miners pay around $100,000 a year to quarry sand and the records will show that Pundit Persad-Maharaj quarries about $25m worth of red sand a year over an 8-year period. In short, the state is barely making 5% on the revenue that Pundit Persad-Maharaj is generating off state property.

To be continued….

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